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Drexel University & Longwood Gardens

A partnership for the future.

Red dress on display at Longwood Gardens

November 18, 2022

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

In the summer of 2022, Longwood Gardens approached Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design with a proposal, which blossomed into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a group of interdisciplinary students and faculty. Each year, the respected Kennett Square botanical garden hosts a dazzling holiday celebration, complete with floral displays, botanical ornaments, and thousands of twinkling lights. In 2022, Longwood’s holiday display includes two couture gown-like sculptures designed and constructed by Drexel Westphal entirely of botanicals.

These extraordinary works create complex visual narratives designed with, and inspired by, yuletide botanicals. “The two couture sculptures are wildly different from one another, and together, these pieces show a wide range of skill and creativity from our students,” says Sarah Steinwachs, the faculty lead on the Longwood project.

Application in Education / Collaboration in Disciplines

Led by Associate Professor and Department Head of Art & Art History Sarah Steinwachs, a team of thirteen students from four design disciplines (Fashion Design, Product Design, Graphic Design, and Design & Merchandising) collaborated with six faculty to create the floral garments for Longwood Gardens’ holiday display, “Botanical Splendor.” 

Through the collaboration, Drexel undergraduate and graduate students gained firsthand experience designing for a real-world cultural institution on a highly visible project. Through the process of concept to the finished works, students discovered what it was like to be creative within the parameters of a client’s vision. 

Applied Education at Drexel Westphal

The center for creativity at Drexel University, the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design trains the next generation of scholars, thinkers, makers, and doers in the fields of media, entertainment, design, and the visual and performing arts. Westphal offers eighteen undergraduate and nine graduate majors, housed in award-winning facilities that encourage collaboration across creative disciplines. At Westphal, we reimagine the role of design, media, and the arts in building a better future. Through experiential learning, studio-based curriculum, and Drexel’s widely-recognized Cooperative Education program (co-op), our students are uniquely positioned to face the world’s challenges and define the creative careers of the 21st century. 

Drexel and Longwood Gardens have a comprehensive partnership that has grown over the last year through the Drexel Solutions Institute and involves multiple, ongoing interdisciplinary research projects. 

Red Dress

Students took inspiration from Egyptian glass ornaments, hoping to capture movement, delicacy, and luxury. They developed a complex layering process on the surface, made from preserved flowers, and decorative leaves.

Green Dress

It evolved from an intuitive exercise of sculpting, inspired by the wonderful world of woodland botanicals. From this process, emerged elegant motifs that depict movement and the spirit of nature. 


 The Designed Outcome

  • 13 Drexel Students 
  • 7 Faculty Mentors
  • 5 Drexel Programs
  • 200 Preserved Roses 
  • 300 Hydrangea Bunches
  • 2 Botanical Gowns


Drexel Students 

  • Sara Begley (Graduate Fashion Design) 
  • Riss Brophy (Design & Merchandising) 
  • Andreia Escobar (Product Design) 
  • Bhavna Ganesan (Graphic Design) 
  • Emily Gioacchini (Graphic Design) 
  • Aviva Gordon (Graphic Design) 
  • Marina Khazana (Fashion Design) 
  • Julia Kimball (Graphic Design) 
  • Sam Martel (Product Design) 
  • Bridget McLaughlin (Graphic Design) 
  • Paige Mueller (Fashion Design) 
  • Martin Queenan (Product Design) 
  • Ahna Romanski (Fashion Design) 

Drexel Faculty & Staff Leads

  • Sarah Steinwachs (Visual Studies)
  • Josh Weiss (Visual Studies)
  • Bill Rees (Graphic Design)
  • Rashidah Salam (Visual Studies)
  • Danielle Claassen (Fashion Design)
  • Kristy Biser (Visual Studies)
  • Amanda Hatch (Visual Studies)

Special Thanks

John Fry, Paul Redman, Nick D’Addezio, Jason Schupbach, Ann Gerondelis, James Sutton, Jessica Whitehead, Rachel Schnaitman, Patricia Evans, Olivia Fow, Jane Gaspari, Carol Gross, Chris McConmsey, Stuart Taylor, Anna Koulas, Jason Gersh, Rajneesh Suri, Anna Richardson, Drexel Solutions Institute, Nik Kozel, Brandon Johnson, Laurel Hostak Jones, Dayana Marshall, Emily Storz, Nat Kaemmerer, Niki Gianakaris, Sonja Sherwood, Nadine Ezzat, Marie Sims, Lewis Colburn, Henry Merker, Trevor Phaneuf, Greg Ruggiero, Brian Stewart, Mysha Harrell, Cooper Wright, Rad Color Solutions, 
James Van Dusen.